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tv   Q A  CSPAN  March 25, 2012 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT

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continues through the day on the supreme court. then the oral argument on c- span 3. >> next, "q & a." after that, c-span's documentary, the supreme court. this week on "q & a" after an activist sonja sohn, founder of rewired for change, a nonprofit group working with at risk children in baltimore, maryland. >> sonja sohn, when did you first think about becoming an actress? >> whiow. i did not recall ever wanting to
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be an actress when i first started. until just for my mother passed away. she presented my husband with a little piece of paper that i had typewritten, a story of what i wanted to be when i was 10 years old. that christmas my has been a that paper was some childhood photos. in the middle of that little of day, at i had no regulation of wanting to pursue acting. when it was first suggested to me when i was in my 20s and i
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was on the poetry scene in new york, i was appalled by the idea. there have been some suggestions in passing saying you should do print modeling, you should be an actress. i thought it was the most of a profession that anyone could get into. i was quite opposed to anything of that nature as a career. i've always said i'd never wanted to be an actress in this profession -- and of this profession kept it to me on the back of the head. i felt i had to turn around. but what was your first acting job? >> it was a small independent film. very he people have seen that fell. at the time i did not consider myself an actor is.
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i was an artist. i planned on teaching english in the city high school. i was writing a novel. that was the track i was on. there was a film and music critic at the time that was a friend of mine who had seen me on stage. he thought i should actually addition for this role. job he simplyo it told me the role ask for someone with an athletic build. i played school in high school. just go out for it. what harm does it do? i ended up with the role. i thought i would just try it.
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i have an adventure is nature. i will try anything once. it was a six week shoot. how many times in your life is someone going to ask you to be in a film? it was fun. >> what year was that? >> we shot it in 1997. but it had to be probably five years before that. 92. it probably was 1991, 1992 i would say. just after that the director said the you might have something. you might want to look into this. i said thanks but no thanks. at any rate, it kept being in the back of my mind. when something digs like that with me, it generally speaking i take it as a sign that perhaps i
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should investigate. i took a class with lee strasberg in new york that summer. i had experience in the class that was very moving and opened up something inside of me. it revealed to me that perhaps there was another place to put all of my experience and by expression, a place that would hold a bit more than maybe the written poetry world. >> the hbo series "the wire" ran for five years. he starred in it. what does region where did the name come from? >> you'd have to ask david.
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we were running a wiretap the entire season on someone. "the wire" comes from that. i do not know if there is some sort of metaphorical meaning. a detective known to cop.e lesbian i see her as more than that. i think in a certain way, she was the moral compass of the police department. i think she held all of that. >> we have just a trailer. it does not show much. people can get a flavor of its. >> ok. >> i went to journalism school,
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and northwestern. >> you do not trust the old reporter. >> seriously? >> its is the same thing. >> bring it. >> it is not going to work. candy ass, that's all i have to say. ok. >> ok. i'm with you. look at tonya. is she runs a dam art gallery. -- she runs a damn art gallery. >> that was one of my favorite scenes. we did a monologue after that where she talks about what moves her to become a cop and stay a
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cop and the moment when her connection to the job was sealed. the woman he was speaking most of that clip -- that was speaking most of that clip was my girlfriend in the show. she was an attorney and did not her acting in law enforcement and wanted me to get out of that line of work. it was the moment where we really, you realized that she was connected to her job. and graaff realizes she's really connected to the job. >i did sent share was an
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attorney. she worked at a television station. that's what it was. >> this program was centered in baltimore. >> absolutely. >> a lot was around the harvard? -- harbor? >> season 2, you're right. >> you tell me how wrong i am. a lot of smoking and drinking and swearing. a lot of real world language. what was the reaction that you got during those five years with the this program? >> the reaction from whom the? >> it seems to me it was rough and what life was like up in person and that world. >> there was a population of
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people who cannot watch this show. it was too raw and real and painful for them to see. either because they came from that environment or because some folks used television as something to unwind with. they did not particularly care to spend their time in that way. itever, many folks belfelt is a story that has not been told truthfully and without apology. i am talking about books and law enforcement. i am talking about judges and
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politicians as well as folks whose lives are depicted by some of the street characters. if they felt as though someone was finally getting it right. >> you testified up in baltimore. it was the national task force on children exposed to violence. let's just watch. >> i remember lying in bed as i heard an argument bring in my parents' bedroom. all need to be shot by the deafening sound of my mother's job being crest. i watched in horror as my mother's head laid on the chopping block as my father held a large butcher's knife to her throat. she used to tell a story about
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she said delta my mommy crying. i was 2 years old. this kicked off a pattern that i had some control over and responsibility for the situation. >> how hard was that for you to do? >> it has been many years and a long process of healing at this point. at this point, if there is some distance from the emotion and trauma of that. it is part of my story but it is not me. i would not say it was difficult for me to tell the story. i think really it is, you know, it woulwas more difficult for me
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-- my father and i have a great relationship. the man in my family are still part of my life. i was concerned at how it would reflect upon them and how they would it take it. just trying to navigate those waters while being respectful and honorable and to honor their journey. >> you are born in virginia? >> in georgia. >> your father is african- american and mother is korean. what has that impacted on your life? >> growing up at times it was difficult. i grew up in an all black neighborhoods. just in general with kids, you do not want to stick out in the difference. particularly the growing up in the south in a newly
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desegregated south, busing had just started when i was in elementary school. we were one of the last date on that track. -- states on that track. there was a challenge their of always having to -- there of always having to prove that i was as black, whatever that means, as the rest of my peers. later on i began to see my definition of blackness was quite skewed. if you were tough and could kick butt, then you were respected. that was a part of the running
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definition of "blackness" at the time. there was that challenge. i believe it has had its advantages for me in terms of how it shaped the world you and perception. -- world view and perception. i was aware that i was a person first and not a label. there was always this strong impulse to unite and get folks to understand that i am just a person. we are people. >> you talk about your father. >> he was mentally ill. i learned he was paranoid
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schizophrenic on a lot of medication. my father is a brilliant man. he had moments of brilliance as a parent. there were faces in our life for we try to have sunday dinner. in may have been a tyrannical nightmarish event at times, but there was times where it there was laughter at the table. he thought he should play chess. by the time your six, you could play chess. he had moments of brilliance. there were times he turned into a monster. >> we learned that your mother died some time ago. when was that? >> 1998. >> when you go back in your own life, you grew up in newport news, you talk about you were into the drugs at some point. how did that happen? >> how old were you?
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>> you know, i guess the story could speak for itself. after a while it becomes reality. it is tough to take. i started smoking pot when i was 11. at the time, it was not as though i was doing it as -- i was not conscious that i was doing it as an escape. i was in a neighborhood with other 11 and 12 year-old experimenting with pot. but by the time i was 13, i was smoking every day.
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at that time, if you are not aware that you are doing it to keep things manageable or create some distance between you and what is really bothering you inside. i would also say around that time was the time i pretty much gave up on fixing my family. bide myying o to time. i spent many childhood hours trying to figure out how i could fix this situation. round 11 and 13 i decided there was nothing i could do about it, but i could not leave. i had a whole plan to leave and i was confident that i believe
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it. i did not want to go to a foster family. i wanted to go to new york. it is strange for people to hear an 11 year old making this plan. i was literally about to walk out the door. i had a pact backpack and everything. -- packed backpack and everything. my mother was heartbroken and crying. she stayed in this marriage because she believed we needed a father. there's nothing i could do to convince her that regardless, that perhaps this is not the arrangement. we could have a father but not in this arrangement. my mother grew up without a father. i realized that had a lot to do with her, you know, being
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adamant that we needed to keep our father in the home. >> where did they meet? >> korea. >> during the korean war? >> just after i believe a. >> how did your mother do in this society? >> my mother was quite successful considering where she came from. a greater may be a grebe education. she could speak english. reading and writing was a challenge for her. there is a point when we were growing up and she started taking classes at a local church. my mother was very gifted of makeseem stripseamstress and to
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anything from scratch. she spent most of her life as and upholsterer down in virginia. she always had a dream to build a home. leaker up in a mixed income housing unit. -- we grew up in a mixed income housing units. i saw my mother by her first: i was a senior in high school. i guess within 10 years my mother bought a piece of property and had her brick house built on 1.5 acres of land. she was quite successful. >> did you move from marijuana to cocaine? >> not like that. >> did one thing leads to another? >> in junior high and high
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school it was speed and acid and marijuana. later in high school i was introduced to cocaine. >> a lot of people use the drugs and we all say it is horrible. do people enjoy these drugs? are you hiding from something? >> then becomes a point where you no longer enjoy them. initially, there has to be some sort of enjoyments. when i was 10 years old as but i had my first cigarette. i did not care about the peer pressure or they were teasing me. i said i am not smoking.
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i never smoked a cigarette again. i have in the future. i did not enjoy it. when it came to pot in particular, it was relaxing. for me it calmed my nerves. he got me out in my head. that is what the initial attraction to it was. drinking was never something i took to. i took to it eventually when i got into cocaine. it became a little bit of a balance for me to the edge of the cocaine would give. quite how do get out of it? >> initially through a therapist. my first husband saw that there
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was a problem. we were having problems. he suggested we went to therapy. i went to therapy with him. after our first session, she said to have to do individual therapy before couples. when i went back to see her, then she completely pulled my card. no one had been able to pull my card. i had written for three years in my journal that i was not living up to my potential, that i knew i should be doing more than just raising my kids. i had a great life. we have a middle-class lifestyle. i was a good mom living in new york.
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i had become very adept at creating a beautiful picture. this is something i learned when i was biding my time in junior high school. i cannot leave my mom. this is a miserable situation. i cannot save them from their misery. i am going to be happy. i took the drugs is to create this happy picture for myself, something that was tolerable to live and. that is when i became active in sports and school. i was a cheerleader. i did all kinds of things. there were a lot of cool and fun people that were doing those things. we created a scenario where there was some level of comfort. we presented this picture to the world. it allowed us to function and to earn money, have jobs. this tie into the dual existence that african americans
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live. there is a pace that you know you have to show when you are trying to get certain things accomplished. then there is the down-home side, the part of the culture that you can share with each other but not with the larger world because there's judgment attached to that. i believe this fed into the picture i was able to create in my 20s. >> i will come back to that. you talked about this when you testified. let's watch this. >> when you live in a world that is never safe, finding out some kind of support becomes an essential survivor's guilt. this is how i became and how many children become easy prey for pedophiles.
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this is why many children enter into the drug age. this is why the sex trade begins to seem like a viable option. this is how we lose our nation's future. without resources to deal with trauma, you will take what is given easily and freely. at the end up in a pattern of abuse, never regaining the ability to handle simple stresses. they have sex as a way to find emotional support and become very young parents. the violence adds up in later years, burning them. >> why did you create? >> i believe in the mission of the task force that the fabric
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of our nation is being ripped apart and disintegrated at the seams because we're not paying enough attention to the trauama strugglesn and that are young people are facing today. -- our young people are facing today. >> how old are your kids? >> a 21 year-old in a 25 year- old, girls. >> your first marriage? >> yes. >> did you marry again? >> i did. isyoungest daughter graduating from the california institute for the arts this year. she's about to follow that path. my older daughter has been working in retell for the past few years and is interested in
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fashion. she has a site set and that direction. i live where i work essentially. i spent quite a bit of time in baltimore. when i work in "body proof," i am there and when the show is down i go back to the east coast to spend part of my time in baltimore. rewired is based in baltimore. i have a home in the outer banks of north carolina. it is my primary residence. then i have connections in new york, family and friends. my oldest daughter is in new york. i caught between those three places. north carolina is my primary residence. >> the main reason is to talk
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about the impact of "the wire" on you. >> rewired for change. >> when do started? you start it? >> 2009 is when we officially started it. >> what does it do? >> rewired for change essentially has a mission to support and empower and affect the lives of high risk youths and their family and the community's in which they live. we start by offering a pilot program, rewired for life, geared to young people you ever been arrested before. we used "the wire" the show as a
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springboard for discussion and to awaken them to the possibilities of personal transformation. >> how did you raise the money? >> oh gosh. how am i raising the money? initially, it was my money that i used. that is still something that is ongoing. >> how many people are working there now? >> for the last 0.5 years -- 1.5 years, we have been running a community home in baltimore, the village house. at the village house, we offer and out of school program. we sponsor local communities.
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and since the, we open our doors to the community to be a support for them in any way we can. that house right now employees four people. >> what is the age group you will take into the house? >> to the after-school program, we're talking about 7-middle school. right now we have about 7-13. curriculum. revamping the rewired for life is down right now. one of the things we discovered after offering the rewired for life pilot program --
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rewired for change is the program. rewired for life is for the individual. when ed the things we discovered was through our work with the pilot program. if our young people had to go back to families and communities that were broken and not ealthy, itd not help the, i would make their transformation more challenging. there is no way to isolate the population -- we are looking for real healing. we are not looking for getting your ged and your job.
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what has unfolded is what we want to see is a deep level of healing in the life of a young person and also in the lives of the entire community. our mission is to uplift and empower communities of folks, to recreate community in a way we have not seen in underserved communities since the '70s. >> 80% of african americans do not qualify to be in the military. that was the headline. 70% of white men and women do not qualify. that is a large statistics because of drugs and obesity. here is a statistic, 40% of americans have children out of
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bed like. 70% of african-americans have children out of wedlock. how do you get out of it? >> that is a good question. i can have an opinion on it. no one is an authority for sure. i think this boils down to something really simple. i was not familiar with the70% statistic. i would like to know how that is broken down with an age groups. >> i think a lot of them are younker. >> i talked about them in the clips.
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acorn need if human beings is to be in love. -- a core need of human beings is to be in love. you need to be loved. when you do not get that nurturance, not to say they are not loved, but true love in a healthy way entails a lot more than being cared for in basic ways. it calls for an emotional nurturance. it calls for guidance. it calls for a whole host of other aspects that i young person needs. we do not have those things, you reach out any way you can to feel it. sometimes it is just touching
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and one thing leads to another and you become invested in another person in an unhealthy way by the time you're in your early 20s, a person that has been nurtured properly, they're at the point where they can go inside and their confidence and their principles and their values. they can hold onto its. the do not have to angeanchor themselves to another person. i believe that pattern has a lot to do with that statistic. >> he decided to do something to your father. i will ask you to explain. >> i spent weeks tried to figure how to get my hands on a gun.
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i have no success. i resorted to how a senior have been scalded by hot pot. i was washing dishes. i watched myself take the biggest pot we have, though it with water and put it on the stove to boil. i disassociated. once it boiled, and to the pots and i stood over my father who slept on the sofa. all the scenes of violence flash before my mind and i saw us without him. i saw laughter on the faces of the rest of our family. i stepped closer. just as i was about to for the water on him, a horrified thought jumped into my conscious. to the singer did not die. it is when i tell my father.
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the plot seem to shrink in my hands. i saw myself as the tiny child i was. i felt into the begins and useless. >> do you ever touch your dad about that? >> i have never talked to my father about that. he is a different man now. the really want to make that clear regardless of the various diagnoses and problems he had. he had a bad 20 years. >> did he see that? >> i do not think he saw that. i have spoken to my father about the past. i had tried to gingerly prepare hand and speak to the things
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that are being revealed right now he has shared with me that he would rather not go back and revisit that time in his life. he is a changed man. he likes to keep us focused on where he is now. >> it is always a bit uncomfortable when i see this stuff coming out of the public. i care about my father very deeply. i want to make sure that folks understands that our life is very long. redemption and transformation is possible. it happened in my life and the life of my father. my family is not the family that i grew up with. >> you were molested by your babysitter? when did that happen? >> that have a very great impact on me.
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that was the most challenging wreckage of that abuse. it was the most challenging for me. it took me decade to really understand that i was a victim. i thought there is a relationship. this is from the ages of 429. what was most difficult to me at the time was the trail -- the trail and abandonment. she said to come back and see me. she never came back.
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that informed my intimate relationships moving forward. it played into a lot of my disfunction. as a teenager, i was raped. that was all tangled up. >> the reason i bring it up is because you have lived all of these things and now you are working with young people. do they have a chance? what would you advise them knowing what you lived through? what would you have done differently to get out of that situation? or would you? >> i did the best i could with that in dealing with certain things.
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within those circumstances, i did the best i could. i would not say it is something i would do differently. there are things that shaped my mind. i was incredibly bright. because despites all of the accomplishments and the picture i created in high school, active in sports and had to be average, i could have a b average about studying and getting high and working. i had decided what was all that work for? i couldn't be happy. i believe if i had a mentor in
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high school, i think i would be a kid that was going to be fine. no one thought that i needed a mentor. they were right essentially. i believe that if i had a mentor who could see beneath the surface that i would have gone on and finished college and probably would have gone to an ivy league types school. there is the idea that i would be able your down the line. i threw that away when i was striving for happiness. what i would say to young people, i would tell them what really let me and got me to the light and brought me to where i am. it can happen for every single young person who is struggling with the issues i was struggling
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with. i have friends to of stories like fine -- who have stories like mine who are successful now, personally and professionally. the thing i think we all have in common is that unbeknownst to ourself, we listened and nurtured the ability to listen to our inner voice. there is an inner voice and intuition that i strongly believe is connected to something much greater than myself. it is knowing when to move and when to fall back, when to jump off a cliff even though it looks like you are not going to make it. that voice will never fail you. getting to know that inner
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voice and following its in every instance that you can, this is the thing that i see from folks that come through the background d success.six els this is something we would like to teach in the rewired for life program. >> to your two children have shovels like yours? >> my oldest has the most. when she was born i was still using. i did my 180 in my life when she was about 4 or 5 years old. in the early years, everything does not as clear up. he put in the hard work and why
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you are processing it, you have to raise kids and be in a marriage. it is a messy process. the people around you get splattered with some of it. it is unfortunate but part of the process. i really was moved to do it for my children because i saw what i was creating in the home and that i was becoming that entity that my father had become. my older daughter has had to work through quite a few more challenges than my younger daughter. my youngest was born just before i turned around. she had seen the best of me. my oldest daughter was affected. >> do you talk to this about them? >> absolutely. i was quite honest. i probably talked to much.
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we are very transparent. if i was having a rough time with the girls in the home, i knew what was happening. as they became older, i was able to share more and more of my stories so they could understand and they could take that journey. every person regardless of how you look pass some sort of journey. you have to know yourself. i wanted them to know that it is important in life. that is a part of living a full and whole life. >> one of the rehabilitation clinic in this country, 83% of the people would go into rehab
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and do not turn it around. 17% do. that is drugs and alcohol. what do you think of the statistics? did you go through detox? did you go through any kind of a 28 day program? did you do it on your own? >> i did not go through a program like that. i had a really supportive husband at the time. we could afford their peak. i did get an outside support group. within that support group, all i saw around me was a great number of people turning their lives around.
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i cannot validate. >> i wrote down some words. >> selling drugs, partying, how much of that goes down in the inner-city? or not just the inner city. absolutely. how much goes on. a great deal of it goes on depends on the community that you live in. even in the communities we cannot see it happening, this is what i believe is tearing the country apart.
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what we think is some of our business because it is uncomfortable to deal with until someone in our family is affected. collectively address some of the shadows and the ink, it's no longer hiding the recesses of society. it is in broad daylight. if we do not address this, it is just going to continue to tear the country apart. >> in 2011, you made a speech in los angeles. i want to show you. >> all my goodness. they do not believe anything
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can be different and their families -- in their families. they believe that is the reality that is. maybe changing the language a little bit and creating a new model, like healing from a whole nother dimension, one that takes us out of this position of being victims of the government and victims of everything that has happened to us. that will go on forever as long as they are human beings. that is just the nature of man. what can we do to operate from the now. i am talking to people that are on the street. if you want things to change in your life, that if he was
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sending to be different in your community, then you have to be a part of this change. >> wire you doing this tax -- why are you doing this? >> because it is too i am. it is my life's mission. all my life i have known i was born tfor some purpose. this is what is coming through. trying to honor that. i am simply trying to honor what is true to me. >> i am making it now. i'm about 13-years old. i am smoking pot or maybe a minute to cocaine. i am robbing and stealing. by doing that to pay for the stuff?
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-- am i doing that to pay for the stuffed? >> many are doing it for food. >> how you get money for the drugs? how did you do it? >> i worked and i sold drugs. my brother was a drug dealer in the neighborhood. >> your brother was killed. how? when? >> he was murdered in north carolina in 1988. >> because? >> of the enough, he was trying to make a change. he moved from virginia to north carolina what my father was down there. he was trying to make a change. he was living in my uncle's home. next door was a young woman who had an abusive boyfriend. from time to time he would talk to her. friend the off was
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jealous and told him to stay away from his girlfriend. eventually he killed him because of that. >> what would you tell me back to do you interact with these kids read what would you tell me? do you interact with the skit -- what would you tell me? and do you interact with these kids? >> it was important for me to see what was working and what was not working. i have such a passion for young people. particularly young people who are caught in the cycles. i had such a desire to see them transform and overcome. it is that work i above. i love that works so much.
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i do not have any capacity in in terms of the time and resources. in this line of work, i've seen a lot of folks who are well trained to do that work. it is better for me to empower them to do that work. preaching to these kids and talking at them is not the way that they are going to make- shift. the shift is experience stil-- s an experience. the way to guide those people is getting to know when to fall back and allow them to express themselves and they expressed a need to make.
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you are there to support them regardless. i am not bad. there is nothing wrong with me. no matter what i do, i am still worthy. that is one piece. then there is finding the curriculum. you can explore a lot of issues and raise awareness. they understand that what they have inside their are very valid and viable. >> five years of "the wire" on hbo. if our audience wants to see today, what time tax what de?
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-- what time? what day? "body of proof."row bo i am a homicide detective. my partners played by john carroll lynch. the medical examiner is played by dana delaney. thank you for joining us. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> for a dvd, the, call1877-662- 7726. for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at www.q-and-
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a.org. "q & a" programs are also available as podcasts. in march of 1979, c-span began televising the u.s. house of representatives to households nationwide. today public affairs, nonfiction books and american history is available on television, radio, and online. >> my personal appreciation that i owe a great debt to others, reinforces my view that a certain humility should characterize the judicial role. judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. judges are like umpires. umpires did not make the rules, they apply them. they make sure

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